"Oh my gosh, we felt larger than life," Sheahan recalls with a laugh. "It was so fun and exciting."

And then it was over. By the time the albums arrived, Tres and Kitsy were in sixth grade and on to the next phase of their lives. There were no Children of Sunshine concert tours. In fact, both of them were a little embarrassed by the whole thing. "When you're ten or eleven, you're still a little girl," explains Sheahan. "When you get into the early teen years, you want to make sure you're still seeking approval from the people around you. And all of a sudden, we went through this transition where we had felt like what we had done was so wonderful, and then we thought it was babyish."

"By sixth grade, Kitsy's brothers were all into rock music," adds Williams. "No sooner was the album released than we were ashamed it wasn't hard rock. We had a psychological block to it for many years."

The pair graduated sixth grade and stayed together one more year — some of the College School parents from their grade started the Satellite School at Nerinx Hall High School. Then Tres moved onto Webster Groves High School, and Kitsy to Ladue Horton Watkins High School. The pair kept in touch but did not do any more songwriting or recording.

And that would have been the last anyone had heard of Children of Sunshine. Except for a little invention no one but a few computer scientists could have predicted in 1971: the Internet.


There have always been record collectors seeking out the most obscure recordings available. From old blues recordings and Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music to the present day, private, ultra-limited-edition pressings have always been valued for their scarcity and odd charm. "Obscurity itself will not sustain collector interest," suggests Irwin Chusid, a long-time DJ at Jersey City, New Jersey's WFMU (91.1 FM) who has produced reissues by the likes of Lucia Pamela and the Langley Schools Music Project. "However, obscurity and some musical magic, however raw, can spark cult appeal, especially if there's a back story and existing copies are rare."

Chuck Warner surely had this philosophy in mind while browsing a west-county garage sale some time in the mid-1990s. Now based in New England, Warner is a collector of some renown. His Hyped to Death label has unearthed literally hundreds of obscure punk, pop and post-punk one-offs and obscurities. He claims to have been one of the first to discover the Shaggs' Philosophy of the World, a strange but beguiling album by a trio of New Hampshire sisters that has spawned cult fame, a musical and a possible biopic. Through trial and error, he's trained himself to sift the vanity projects from the gems. "There are hundreds, if not thousands, of private-press LPs with promisingly crude artwork that turn out to be high school and college glee club and show bands, or religious records," Warner says. So when he happened across Dandelions at this particular garage sale, he was naturally suspicious. But, hey, it was only a quarter — so he bought the album and took it home.

"Of course, when I listened to it, I was blown away by both the musical sophistication and the lyrics." Warner recalls. And thus began the search for answers, in time-honored collector fashion: Who are these people? And what are they doing now?

Warner began sleuthing. He called the College School's alumni office, which would not give out contact information. When he realized that they had friends in common, he put out a request for information and a fresh, unopened copy of the album — only to find out, "Kitsy and Tres did not seem to want anything to do with the record and were not willing to sell copies to me at any price."

"We just didn't want to claim it anymore," Sheahan recalls. "The man I ended up marrying, his family had dear friends that went to the College School with me. While I was out of town, his mother had our record album in her living room and said, 'You're not going to believe who this is!' Even then, I was still embarrassed."

Warner played Dandelions for a few select contacts. One was ex-Dead Kennedys' vocalist Jello Biafra, known for his passion for "incredibly strange music."

Another was a long-time friend of Warner's in California. Said friend finally traded a pile of punk records for Warner's copy of the album, did his own research and found Williams on the Internet.

She was annoyed that someone had sold Dandelions at a garage sale.

"My instant reaction was, 'Who's the jerk who sold our album when they could have called and given it back to us?'" Williams remembers.

By this time, both Williams and Sheahan were happily going about their adult lives. Sheahan stayed in the area, married, had three children and began selling real estate. Williams married, divorced after fifteen years and eventually found her way to New Mexico. There she became active in music once again — this time playing percussion in Brazilian samba bands — and started working in "permaculture," or sustainable land-use design. Her organization has helped set up agricultural systems throughout Latin America. (When it's suggested that she's come full circle from Dandelions to permaculture, she laughs. "If you're growing shallow-rooted crops, leaving the dandelions actually brings nutrients up to the surface," she says. "So dandelions are very valuable.")

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9 comments
Ted Rubright
Ted Rubright

When I saw this in my RFT RSS feed my eyes flew open wide! Thanks for bringing this story back from the distant past. I was a College School student at the time and remember Therese and Kitsy well. I also remember Jim Curran. He helped me and a couple of other guys (Jesse Cox and Steve Martin) form a band, though I don't think we had a name. It was one of my earliest organized musical experiences and it had a profound effect on me. In fact, I've been at it ever since.

stlouisdan
stlouisdan

Just read the article today and just read the "reunion" comments. Just fabulous and I am getting tingles all over. Enjoy the new ride folks !

Jim Curran
Jim Curran

Hi Joe, great article, you are a good writer. You captured the enthusiasm and originality of the album and of the girls. I know because I was there. The dandelion field is the front lawn of Webster Hall at Webster University. I still have the out-take photos. I also have photos of Tres and Kitsy at their first school concert prepping to go "public". Those were fun times. I am not lost. I live in Chesterfield and I will contact Kitsy tomorrow. Jim Curran

Joe Williams
Joe Williams

You did a great job (and a great service), Mike. I've been wanting to write the same story myself, and I might have done it if I hadn't transitioned from a rock critic to a movie critic. I found a copy of Dandelions at a thrift store on Cherokee St in 1984, when I was the editor of the local fanzine Jet Lag. I've been telling people about it for more than a quarter century. After I moved to L.A. in the late '80s to work for the music magazine Cashbox, I played and copied the album for members of R.E.M. and the Posies, so I know the word started spreading through the American indie-rock community a decade before the estimable Chuck Warner accelerated it. Now I'm back in St. Louis and writing movie reviews for the Post-Dispatch, but I still treasure the album, and I hope to give a glowing review to the inevitable movie about the Dandelions.

https://picasaweb.google.com/l...

Mike Appelstein
Mike Appelstein

So great to see you here, Jim! Glad you liked the piece!

Therese Williams
Therese Williams

Jim! Hello hello hello!Greetings from Santa Fe!Looking forward to connecting soon.Therese

Mike Appelstein
Mike Appelstein

Thanks Joe! I'm a real lover of private pressings and count the Shaggs, Jandek, Langley Schools Music Project, and weird little pop and punk singles among my favorites. Yet I never even *heard* of the Dandelions album until a few months ago, when Everett True plugged them on Twitter (and he was linking to a website that posted it two years ago). It seems to have been making the rounds at its own slow pace. The moment I heard it, I knew I'd be writing something about it. When I saw that one of the songs was called "The College School," a bell went on in my head - could this be local?? Indeed it was. I'm happy to have continued the discovery process in some way.

Jill George
Jill George

Tres? Jim? It's Jill Fischer. Just found this article and wanted to say hello!

 
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